tv The Situation Room CNN October 2, 2012 1:00pm-4:00pm PDT
"erin burnett out front." see you then. meantime let's go to washington and wolf blitzer. thanks so much for watching me. i'm brooke baldwin. your "the situation room" begins right now. thanks, brooke. happening now, a new poll has bad news for mitt romney when it comes to one of the country's most important groups of voters. tomorrow night won't be the first time romney and the president have come face-to-face, but you may be surprised at how seldom they've actually met. and the former speaker of the house, nancy pelosi, she's here in "the situation room" live this hour. i'll ask her about the democrats' chances of taking back control of the house of representatives. i'm wolf blitzer. your in "the situation room." we're down to just 35 days
until the actual presidential election exactly five weeks from today. here's where the race may be decided. we're getting our first look inside the debate hall over at the university of denver. barack obama and mitt romney, they are getting ready to face-off tomorrow night. and as cnn's national political correspondent jim acosta discovered, it will be one of the very two times the two men have actually met in person. jim is joining us live from littleton, colorado. what's the latest on this particular score, jim? >> reporter: well, wolf, i can tell you right now that ann romney is about to take the stage behind me. she's going to be holding an event here in littleton, colorado, in a few moments from now. she's been one of this campaign's most effective surrogates and been very busy doing just that while her husband, mitt romney, has been doing debate preparations just a short distance away in denver. it will be fascinating, wolf, to watch the body language between mitt romney and president obama tomorrow night when they meet face-to-face as the obama campaign revealed to cnn, the
two men have only met a few times in the past. flash back to 2008 and there they are. then-senator barack obama and mitt romney sharing a few moments on stage after back-to-back democratic and republican presidential debates in new hampshire. they also ran into each other at a labor day parade in 2007. a campaign source cataloging the meetings tells cnn these are just two of the three times the candidates have ever seen each other in person. flash forward to 2012 one day before the debate. romney briefly stopped for lunch grabbing bued burritos at chipo >> people want to know who's going to win. who's going to score the punches? >> reporter: at a pre-debate rally in denver, romney seemed to down play reports that his campaign has prepped him with zingers to go after the president. >> it's not so much winning or losing or the people themselves, the president and myself, it's
about something bigger than that. it will be a conversation with the american people that will span almost an entire month. >> reporter: romney aides say the gop nominee is adjusting debate tactics away from what worked with a handful of opponents on stage to a more one-on-one approach. >> there's one person on stage. it's done three nationally televised head-to-head debates in a general election format. that's been president obama. governor romney hasn't. >> reporter: during the primaries romney demonstrated he can stumble. as he did trying to bet rick perry big money at one debate. >> rick, i'll tell you what, $10,000? $10,000 bet? >> reporter: but romney is no debate lightweight here taking down newt gingrich's idea for a moon colony in florida. >> if i had a business executive come to me and say they wanted to spend a few hundred billion dollars to put a colony on the moon, i'd say you're fired. >> reporter: while romney stays behind closed doors, he's fine tuning his message softening his
position on immigration. allowing the children of undocumented workers to stay in the country until immigration reform is passed. he's also out with a tough new ad linking president obama to former house speaker nancy pelosi. >> who will raise taxes on the middle class? barack obama and the liberals already have. >> reporter: fresh ammunition for tomorrow night's debate at an event earlier today in charlotte, north carolina, wolf, biden said how can the romney campaign justify raising taxes on the middle class that has been buried -- in his words, buried, the last four years. paul ryan at a campaign event in iowa just a few moments ago seized on those comments and said vice president biden said that the middle class has been buried. we agree. he goes onto say that means we need to stop digging by electing mitt romney the next president of the united states, wolf. i have a strg sense this will be brought up at tomorrow night's debate, wolf. >> we'll have a lot more on what
joe biden has just said and the very tough reaction coming in from the romney campaign. gloria borger is standing by on that front. both of these campaigns are bringing major surrogates to denver to appear in the so-called spin room after the debate tomorrow night. what are you learning about the romney campaign's people who are coming in? >> reporter: wolf, it's probably no surprise rob portman, mitt romney's chief sparring partner playing barack obama in the debate, he'll be in the spin room. but we've also learned that marco rubio, the rising star, senator from florida who had a prominent role at the republican convention, he will also be in the room. it's interesting to note this comes just as mitt romney's making some new gestures in some outreach, you could say, to the latino community. notable he will be there as well. >> very interesting. thanks very, very much, jim acosta in littleton, colorado.
all right. this just coming in to cnn. the results of our brand new poll among latinos all over the united states. certainly one of the country's fastest growing and increasingly important groups of voters. look at this. it shows overwhelming support for president obama. he leads mitt romney 70% to 26% among likely latino voters. let's bring in our chief national correspondent john king joining us from denver, the site of the debate tomorrow night. john, you've taken a close look at these numbers. are there any nuggets in there that may be good for the romney campaign? because 70% of latinos saying they're likely to vote for the president of the united states, that's pretty bad for romney. >> reporter: wolf, i've scrubbed the numbers, looked at the cross tops and in a word, no, there is nothing encouraging for the romney campaign in the poll of likely latino voters. one way you judge an incumbent president, president obama, you ask people what do you think of
job performance? all americans are split on that question. do they approve or disapprove of the president's job performance, but among latinos, nearly 7 in 10, 68% say they approve of the president's job performance. look across looking in here to find some nugget of hope for governor romney as latinos describe themselves as moderates, 76%. conservative latino voters, you would think that would be governor romney's base, 55% majority of conservative latinos plan to vote for the democratic president of the united states. in other battleground states very bleak news for governor romney as jim acosta just noted. he's trying to accelerate his outreach. he's got a lot of work to do. >> he does. i checked with the exit polls four years ago and they showed at that time in the race against john mccain then senator now president obama he got 68% or so
of latino voters. he seems to be doing even better right now among latino voters. here's the question, john, for you. are these guaranteed votes that the president can put in the bank right now five weeks to the day before the election? >> reporter: again, in a word, the answer is no, or not quite. because this is such an important constituency, part of our reporting in colorado, wolf, we went to an obama campaign local headquarters last night in the beginning of the suburban stretch and they were making phone calls to latino voters because they know this in the obama campaign, it's not just the percentage, it's how many turnout. and there is deep concern while we were there at the phone bank we spoke to several people in the room that say when they call the latino voters, they are hearing more and more unlike four years ago people saying he's been president four years and where are the jobs? or he's just another politician. or this is the choice of the lesser of two evils, romney and obama. one woman who worked the phones in 2008 with latino vote who was there last night said there's
not as much hope or hype. they believe when they reach latinos who say for the president their numbers match to our polling numbers. they think they'll get the overwhelming percentage of the latino vote. the question is will turnout dip? in this case, governor romney is hoping the republican base turns out. that could be the big factor. the obama campaign is working this constituency very, very hard. one thing they'll do here in colorado, wolf, and in other states, try to get them to turn out. the early voting window opens here in colorado in about 11 days. they hope to get as many as possible go back and vote early and go back and double and triple check the list that's the worry. >> turnout is critical. thanks very much, john. john's in denver for us. as jim acosta just mentioned a few moments ago, the romney campaign is now pouncing on a remark that the vice president made earlier today while campaigning in north carolina. another key battleground state. listen to what the vice president said in charlotte. >> the romney/ryan tax plan will
raise taxes on middle class families with a child, one or more children, by an additional $2,000 a year. all kidding aside, with all the boos, we can stop all that mularkey, this is deadly earnest, man, this is deadly earnest. how they can justify -- how they can justify raising taxes on the middle class that's been buried the last four years. how in lord's name can they justify raising their taxes with these tax cuts? >> a tweet from mitt romney says this, agreed with @joe biden, the middle class has been buried last four years which is why we need a change in november. let's bring in chief political analyst gloria borger. channel in vice president joe biden right now. what was he trying to say
obviously didn't come across as he clearly would like. >> well, what he was clearly trying to say and the obama campaign was quick to point this out is that what he was trying to say is that the middle class was buried urntd george w. bush and that's what started the problems for the middle class and that the obama administration has started to pull it out by its boot straps. and so the obama campaign just in case we didn't get that has a statement that says that the romney campaign is taking this entirely out of context. it's obviously in looking at the full transcript that joe biden was talking about the fact that the middle class was buried under failed bush policies. and of course they say romney/ryan would change all that. however, this is an opportunity, which the romney campaign is taking to say, you know what, we agree with you. the middle class has been buried and we're going to change that. imagine this as kind of the dry season in the west in the summer. and any match or any lightning
strike is going to start a huge fire. and that's what's going on here the closer we get to the election. >> this is coming a day before the debate. how detrimental could this be for the obama campaign? >> i'm sure the obama campaign is thinking this is a headache they don't need. as you know in the past joe biden has given them a bunch of headaches. they like joe biden very much but they prefer he wouldn't make this kind of mistake. people make mistakes. the president has made his own mistakes. mitt romney has made his own mistakes. this will probably be another line that mitt romney carries in his back pocket to use in the presidential debate saying, oh, by the way your own vice president said that the middle class was buried for the last four years, so what about that? it's clearly fodder just as the 47% is fodder. i think we're going to hear all about this. >> what the vice president should have said is that the middle class was buried for the last four years because of the policies of the bush administration. but he didn't say that.
>> he didn't. and you're all i don't want to make excuses here. you're out on the campaign trail. you're giving speech after speech after speech. biden's in debate prep. he made a mistake. it's going to be used against him. it's going to be used against the president. >> gloria, thanks very much. please be sure to join us tomorrow for the first presidential debate. we're marshalling the full resources of cnn to analyze the candidates' performance. we'll fact check their answers. we'll follow the reaction of the undecided voters in the host state of colorado. debate night in america beginning tomorrow 7:00 p.m. eastern right here on cnn. > if president obama wins re-election, it potentially sets up a huge battle. we're taking a closer look at what may happen if he gets to replace one of the conservatives on the united states supreme court. [ male announcer ] in blind taste tests, even ragu users chose prego. prego?! but i've bought ragu for years. [ thinking ] wonder what other questionable choices i've made? i choose date number 2!
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jack cafferty's looking ahead to tomorrow's presidential debate. jack's joining us now with the cafferty file. jack. >> wolf, chris christie says that mitt romney is going to kick president obama's butt in tomorrow night's debate. hey, that's the way the new jersey governor talks. chris christie thinks romney will turn the election upside down, his words, and that it will be a brand new race after the showdown in denver. no surprise romney's people ran right away from chris christie's comments pretty quickly. they're trying to lower expectations, which is how candidates normally approach these things. but let's suppose for a minute that chris christie's right. what would it take for mitt romney to win the debate and change the storyline of this election? 50 million people are expected to tune in. many think tomorrow night is romney's last best chance to turn things around. he's been practicing for the debate for months on top of the practice he got in the almost two dozen primary debates. but here's the challenge, romney has to come off as likable, authentic and show that he can coect with the voters. we've been hearing that for
months, haven't we? apparently it's still a challenge for him. a piece in the daily beast suggests the only thing romney can do to change the race in a meaningful way is to get specific about his ideas. so far neither romney nor obama has been willing to do that. the voters have been left to simply wonder what's up. others say romney needs to make president obama come off as condescending. back when he told hillary clinton that she was likable enough, remember in 2008 during their debate? he's reportedly been practicing some zingers to use against the president. and while powerful sound bites get lots of plays in the days after the debate, remember where the beef commercial, stuff like that. it's questionable if a few good one-liners will be enough to put mitt romney in the white house. here's the question, what can mitt romney do to win the first debate? go to cnn.com/caffertyfile and post a blog or go to "the
situation room" facebook page. president obama's court looks different than it was when he was elected with two new justices he nominated. how could it change in four more years if he is re-elected? joe johns has been looking at this story. yesterday, joe, you did a whole piece on how the supreme court might be affected if mitt romney were elected. today you're looking at how the supreme court could be elected if the president is re-elected. >> right, wolf. if the president is re-elected we already have a pretty good road map to the kind of person he thinks would make a good supreme court justice. after all he's picked a couple and taught constitutional law. he said over and over again for him this is all about what's in a judge's heart. when he nominated sonia sotomayor to the supreme court, president obama laid out his criteria for justices. chief among them empathy. >> it is experience that give a person common sense and touch and compassion and understanding of how the world works and how
ordinary people live. and that is why it is a necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need on the supreme court. >> reporter: it's a trait president obama probably wishes more justices shared when they decided citizens united, the case that largely removed independent corporate spending limits on federal political campaigns. he called out the high court during his 2010 state of the union address. >> with all due deference to separation of powers, last week the supreme court reversed a century of law that i believe will open the flood gates for special interests. >> reporter: four months later the president made sure to highlight similar themes when he nominated the second female justice in two years, elena kagan. >> during her time in this office she's repeatedly defended the rights of shareholders and ordinary citizens against unscrupulous corporations. in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the interests of ordinary citizens.
>> reporter: you won't hear the president talk much about the court other than a quick mention of the decision that upheld his health care plan. >> this law is here to stay. the supreme court has spoken. >> reporter: though the court is part of an attack line for vice president biden. >> close your eyes and imagine, imagine what the supreme court will look like after four years of a romney presidency. imagine what it would mean for civil rights and voting rights and so much more. >> reporter: but if the president is re-elected, what effect would it have on the court? >> well, president obama could have big impact on the court is if one of the more conservative justices, like swing vote anthony kennedy or justice antonin scalia who are both in their mid-70s, if they retired, then president obama could replace a conservative or a right leaning moderate. >> reporter: here's who could make the nominee list if
president obama wins a second term. california attorney general harris is getting a lot of buzz. >> the california attorney general has political experience, which is really missing on the court right now. >> reporter: another name circulating is ja kwlen wen. if she's nominated, the california-based federal appeals judge would make history as the court's first asian-american justice. but that's no guarantee. and for example if ruth bader ginsburg is the only justice to retire, the liberal side of the court would not get any bigger. just a little younger. >> and as you know, there's been a lot of speculation about whom romney might nominate. >> right. among them paul clement is one name we've heard. dia diane sikes and kav gnaw, a judge here in d.c. >> love to speculate. >> fantastic. >> all the names we've never heard of. >> happens a lot. i know. we'll have a quick check of
some of the day's top stories then the former speaker of the house, nancy pelosi, now the minority leader in the house of representatives, she's standing by to join us live. she says she insists i should say that democrats have a real shot at winning back the majority in the house. is the math on her side? we'll discuss that and a lot more. [ male announcer ] the perfect photo... [ man ] nice!
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with only 35 days until the election, a pair of republicans want the secretary of state hillary clinton to testify next week about the deadly attack on the united states consulate in benghazi, libya. it's the only congressional hearing on in matter scheduled between now and election day, november 6th. in their letter to the secretary today, the house oversight committee chairman daryl issa revealed new information about the attack. and i'm quoting from the letter now. "multiple u.s. federal government officials have confirmed to the committee that prior to the september 11 attack the u.s. mission in libya made repeated requests for increased security in benghazi." the letter then continues. the mission was denied these resources by officials in washington. the house democratic leader nancy pelosi is here in "the situation room." let's get to some of the news. let's get your reaction right now to what chairman issa and
congressman chaffetz are saying? >> i think it's important the congress has the right to know, but the department of state has to have the information. there is investigation by the fbi as to what happened in benghazi. and there's a review answering some of the questions asked. but how can you ask the secretary to come before the information is known? it's also important to note that the republican appropriation in congress gave the administration $300 million less than it asked for for the state department including funding for security. >> are you suggesting that there was a financial aspect to what happened in benghazi, libya? that the u.s. didn't have enough money to protect american diplomats? >> no. what i'm saying is congress has the right of oversight, but it also has the power of the purse. so as it looks to what the fundamentals are here, we have to know -- nobody's going to know by next week, but we have to have a full investigation and accountability for it. but we also have to look to
ourselves in terms of that funding question, $300 million less than the administration asked for. >> and we know the state department, the secretary has asked thomas pickering to launch this full scale investigation internally in the state department. but you acknowledge that congress has an oversight role to make sure these are legitimate questions that these congressmen are asking. >> but as you indicate, they have had no hearings on any subject. today we had to have a rump hearing democrats only unfortunately republicans would not participate on medicare and how medicare is affected by the ryan/romney budget to sever the medicare guarantee. they didn't want to participate in that. they don't want to -- we're supposed to be in session this week, but they've canceled it rather than passing a middle income tax cut, passing a jobs bill, passing the violence against women act, passing the farm bill, any of those things. but yet they have time to say we want information when they know it's premature.
>> so you're saying this is political from their position? >> one might suspect that. >> that's what i hear you saying. >> one might suspect that. >> let's talk about other political stuff going on. a new romney campaign ad. i'm going to play a clip because you're prominently featured in this ad. watch this. >> who will raise taxes on the middle class? barack obama and the liberals already have. to pay for government-run health care, you'll pay higher taxes and more for your medicine. and their plan includes $1 trillion in higher classes even on the middle class. mitt romney and common sense conservatives will cut taxes on the middle class. >> you see an ad like that. how does it make you feel? >> it makes me feel sad for them that they have no fidelity to the truth. the fact is president obama and the democratic congress were cutting taxes for the middle class from day one. one week and one day after the president's inaugural address we passed a recovery package that had a tax cut for the middle class.
approximately 30% of that legislation was a tax cut for the middle class. these are the same republicans who have held the middle income tax cut hostage to their giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country. i've never seen a campaign -- and i've seen a lot of them where there's been such a lack of faithfulness to the truth. >> i think what they're referring to is the middle class taxes going up as a result of the affordable care act. there are also some new taxes in there the supreme court deemed them as taxes run by the irs and the middle class will have to pay these new taxes to comply with what's called obama care. >> well, the fact is is that what we're talking about is the well-being of the middle class. and the affordable care act reduces cost to the consumer for care and save the taxpayer $100 billion over the first ten years, $1 trillion over 20 years. so this is -- what they've said about the affordable care act and medicare is another place
where i don't know how they can tell the american people that simply is not true. what we did there was take what would be increased payments to health care providers, use it to give increased benefits to seniors and extend the life of medicare by ten years. and they are misrepresenting that as well. >> but the supreme court and others have deemed it to be a tax. and it would effect primarily the middle class. i assume that's what this romney ad is referring to. >> well, i think you can assume it's a very -- it's a misrepresentation. >> let's talk a little bit about joe biden for a minute. did you hear in the news today, i don't know what he was saying, i know what he was suggesting, but it certainly came across poorly when he said the middle class has been buried over the last four years. did you hear that earlier today? >> i heard when i came in. i didn't see the context of what it was. but the fact is if the republicans had not stood in the way of president obama's initiatives on job creation and tax cuts for the middle class, the middle class would certainly
be better off. it was interesting to see an article the other day that talked about the high end, the forbes 400. it said in one year those in the -- that list -- >> the wealthiest americans. >> the wealthiest americans gained $200 billion in wealth while the middle class stagnated. >> yeah. the stock market, dow jones gone from 7,000 to 13,500. it's not surprising they've made a lot of money. people have invested in these stocks over the past four yoors. >> that's the point of the article saying capital gains difference shl is not necessarily about growth in the economy for emp. >> you've said repeatedly you think you could become the majority in the house. this come out, i'll read it, it's often noted house democrats need to win back 25 seats, but in actuality as we've noted all cycle long, democrats will likely need to pick up between
35 and 40 republican-held seats because they are likely to lose a few of their own members. do you agree with that analysis? >> we've said all along we have to net 25 seats. we're going to drive for 25 more seats. i don't think it's up to 40. but i think that w probably have to win more than 25. >> can you net 25? >> i think we can. >> why do you think so? most of the analysts don't think you can. >> because i'm on the campaign trail. i see the enthusiasm of our candidates. they're absolutely great. many of them self-recruited. they just came forward and said not on my watch while we let the republicans what they're doing to our country continue. we have a great leader, steve israel, chairman of our committee very analytical and very strong and scientific as to how we go forward. it's mostly about the vision for our country. >> you believe, correct me if i'm wrong, that paul ryan being added to the republican ticket has helped you in trying to gain seats, is that right? >> mark your calendar, august
11th, the day he was chosen gave a clarification to the issue of medicare. this is a person who has been the destroyer of medicare guarantee. >> he wants to save it he says. >> wither on the vine. he wants it to wither on the vine. which is the language the republicans used when they're not on tv. but here's the thing, the six times do-nothing republican congress which refused to pass a jobs bill or i've said some of the other bills earlier has taken the time for six times to sever the medicare guarantee. by naming romney the spotlight move to that for 16 months we had been saying -- previous to that, we've been saying to members the most important issues in alphabetical order is medicare, medicare, medicare. it's about our seniors and their families. now they want to take us to a time before medicare existed by giving you a voucher to go
shopping which helps give choice to the insurers, diminishes your choice. >> you'll have to thank him if you become the speaker once again. you'll send him a note thanking paul ryan for helping you if that's the way you believe it. hold on for a moment leader pelosi. we have much more to talk about. i want to take a quick break. much more to discuss including the former speaker's unique perspective on why she believes the country is better off now than it was four years ago. stand by. with the spark cash card from capital one, olaf's pizza palace gets the most rewards of any small business credit card! pizza!!!!! [ garth ] olaf's small business earns 2% cash back on every purchase, every day! helium delivery. put it on my spark card! [ pop! ] [ garth ] why settle for less? great businesses deserve the most rewards!
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email marketing from constant contact reaches people in a place they're checking every day -- their inbox. and it gives you the tools to create custom emails that drive business. it's just one of the ways constant contact can help you grow your small business. sign up for your free trial today at constantcontact.com/try. we're back with the house democratic leader nancy pelosi. leader pelosi, you were telling me the other day a really amazing story where people forget four years ago almost exactly to the day you got a call from the then-treasury secretary, president bush's secretary treasury, hank paulson. what did he say to you? >> well, actually, it was the reverse. i called him. because i was seeing what was
happening with lehman, merrill lynch. here's where we were four years ago. i call the secretary, what's going on? how can we be helpful? can you come to my office tomorrow morning at 9:00? the secretary says tomorrow morning will be too late. tomorrow morning will be too late then why am i calling you? why aren't you calling me? i said we'll call chairman bernanke and ask him to come to our office at 5:00 to brief the leadership on what was going on in the markets. >> you were then the speaker of the house. >> i was then the speaker. so i said why am i calling you? and the impression i received was that the white house did not want congress to know. they were just trying to wait it out. >> to know what? >> the following. so they come that evening, now we have the house and senate, democrats and republicans, in the speakers office. secretary bernanke describes a
disaster, a meltdown of our financial situation in our country of horrible magnitude. so i turn to the chairman bernanke and said what do you think of this, mr. chairman? and this is the point, the chairman says if we do not act immediately we will not have an economy by monday. >> this is ben bernanke the chairman of the federal reserve. and this is a friday you were saying? >> a thursday night. >> and he's saying if you didn't take emergency action. >> we would not have an economy by monday. >> what does that mean? >> it's a horrible prospect. it means everything would disintegrate in terms of financial transactions and the rest. we went out and said time is of the essence regardless of the fact there was a presidential election seven weeks away. this happened on the president's watch. he was suggesting a solution. i said we must work together in a bipartisan way to get this done. but the fact is is that they
knew, they were withholding the information from congress because they were hoping to get to the election, in my view. but the fact is four years ago the end of september if we didn't act immediately, we would not have an economy by monday. that would have been a disaster for our country. so while we want to do more to help individual families and the republicans instructed that in the last two years, the fact is we would not have had an economy on the path that the bush administration republicans had. >> i know you acted, the federal reserve acted and the economy exists today. but you're trying to give that perspective where the country was exactly four years ago as opposed to right now. >> i wouldn't have brought it up except they brought up are you better off now than you were four years ago. we certainly are very much better off now than we were four years ago. but we would be even better off if the republicans had worked with the president in a cooperative y and not an obstructionist way to create more jobs. >> let's see what happens over the next five weeks. thanks very much, leader pelosi,
for coming in. >> thank you. congratulations on your new digs. >> thank you very much. nancy pelosi says democrats can take back the house. what do our own experts think about that? our strategy session is next. let's say you want to get ahead in your career. how do you get from here... to here? at university of phoenix we're moving career planning forward so you can start figuring that out sooner. in fact, by thinking about where you want your education to lead, while you're still in school, you might find the best route leads somewhere you weren't even looking. let's get to work. and the candidate's speech is in pieces all over the district. the writer's desktop and the coordinator's phone are working on a joke with local color. the secure cloud just received a revised intro from the strategist's tablet. and while i make my way into the venue, the candidate will be rehearsing off of his phone. [ candidate ] and thanks to every young face i see out there.
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and lock in your rate for 12 months today. liberty mutual insurance. responsibility. what's your policy? ...and we inspected his brakes for free. -free is good. -free is very good. [ male announcer ] now get 50% off brake pads and shoes at meineke. let's get right to our strategy session. joining us two cnn contributors, democratic strategist donna brazile and republican strategy ana-and-a-ha navarro. ana, you heard nancy pelosi, she thinks they can get a net gain of 25 seats to become a majority in the house of representatives largely because she says paul ryan is on the republican ticket. and in her words he's the quote
destroyer of medicare and that's going to hurt the republicans in november, what do you think? >> well, i think steny hoyer is also wanting to be speaker. and i think none of the two are going to get the chance. it's looking very good for the republicans in the house. there are some seats up for grabs. the senate looks a lot closer, but i tell you that there is going to be a balance of powers this coming november whether it's president obama in the white house and republicans in the house or president romney in the house and democrats in the senate, it looks to me like we're going to have checks and balances. i don't think miss pelosi gets her wish. >> you agree with nancy pelosi's strong conviction that the ghkts can win the majority in the house? >> it's tough, wolf. but we know that the democrats have had to face a very difficult head wind. but, look, i think the democrats will pick up seats in california, pick up seats in illinois, perhaps pick up seats up in the northeast. there are 66 vulnerable republicans out there. if the democrats run a really aggressive campaign, absolutely
tie them to the paul/ryan budget and the romney/ryan 47%, i think the democrats can make a lot of significant head where this falls. >> once again vice president joe biden causing a bit of a stir today with these words. i'll play a clip and then we'll discuss. >> vice president biden just today said that the middle class over the last four years has been "buried." we agree. that means we need to stop digging by electing mitt romney the next president of the united states. >> paul ryan reacting very quickly. mitt romney reacting very quickly to biden's comments that the middle class over the past four years, four years being the obama administration, have been "buried." >> first of all, wolf, the romney campaign really has nothing to say in 24 hours. this is paul ryan who on fox
news on sunday couldn't explain the romney/ryan tax plan. not because it's complicated, because the math don't add up. and for the middle class it hurts the middle class. it digs the middle class into the dead years of 2000 to 2010. >> how problemmatic? >> the republicans have nothing but gaffes. they love when joe biden speaks because for some reason they like to take those comments and blow them out of proportion flt i just think it's nonsense. if they want to talk about joe biden and who will help the middle class, that's an argument i think the democrats would like to have. >> there will be a lot of discussion of joe biden's remarks right now. >> donna's right. we like to talk about joe biden because he gives us a lot to talk about. in a few weeks we'd miss joe biden, the gift that keeps on giving. only in washington is a truth called a gaffe when it's not politically convenient. what he said right now is the truth. it is harmful.
it is harmful because it is the truth. because it's going to ring true with the middle class. and because it will make a very effective ad. >> if the republican nominee tomorrow night at the debate says to the president even your own vice president joe biden says the middle class has been buried over the past four years, how should the president respond? >> well, you know, hopefully the president will say, you didn't mention al qaeda, afghanistan, you talked about 47% of the american people and they're victims and you have nerve to talk about what joe biden said yesterday? i wouldn't give mitt romney the time of the day if he brought that up tomorrow. >> you think he should bring it up tomorrow night, the republican candidate? >> i want to see it in an ad. i want to see it in an ad quickly. and i think it will come up tomorrow in the debate. i wouldn't be surprised if you see barack obama laugh off what president -- vice president joe biden said. >> what do you mean laugh off? >> we are so used to vice president biden putting his foot
in his mouth that it's almost become laughable. and i think even president obama would admit that at times. >> republicans have a hard time trying to point fingers when they know they have stopped everything that president obama and the vice president's tried to do to help the middle class. still we have 5.1 million americans working today -- >> donna, when you have the sitting vice president saying that middle class is buried, those are powerful words. >> i'm sure the ads are being created right now by the romney campaign, super pacs and all of them. >> another waste of money. >> guys, thanks very much for coming in. the cafferty file's coming up next. then right at the top of the hour leading republicans slamming the state department over the deaths of four americans in libya. now he's demanding answers to some tough questions. the pace of change is accelerating. the way we... perform, compete and grow. and people are driving this change.
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jack's joining us again with the cafferty file. jack. >> big day tomorrow. the question is what can mitt romney do to win that first debate. gary writes from california, i'd like to hear both candidates explain specifically how they would correct our current financial problems. we're staring at a virtual financial armageddon and nobody seems to want to talk about it. i don't get it. william writes from washington, every time romney says in the debate that he's for the 100%, the number 47 will flash across most people's minds. nora writes from texas, he needs to look presidential, act presidential and talk like he believes what he's saying. if he doesn't sound positive and
sure of himself, it's all over. carol in massachusetts says mitt should zip the can zingers and try to lay out his vision for the country in plain not pal -- gary writes he needs to focus on obama's record, current price of gasoline, operation of the oil pipeline from canada, offshore drilling permit delays, his apologies to foreign nations for america, his failure to acknowledge the $16 trillion debt, $5 trillion of which occurred in the last four years, socialist approach to government, unrelenting unemployment and the looming fiscal cliff over which america is about to fall. jenna in california writes, that's cute, jack. you think romney actually has a chance to win the first debate. i think it will be a miracle if romney can keep his foot out of his mouth. and robert writes treat it like a business deal. subcontract it out to a more qualified stand-in. don't go with the lowest bidder,
you could end up with rick perry instead of ronald reagan and then you can fire them when they're done. if you want to read more about this, go to the blog cnn.com/caffertyfile or through our post on "the situation room" facebook page. jack, thank you. new video appear to show u.s. journalist missing in syria. is it staged though? stand by. ry interesting in common. they have teachers... ...with a deeper knowledge of their subjects. as a result, their students achieve at a higher level. let's develop more stars in education. let's invest in our teachers... ...so they can inspire our students. let's solve this.
and you're in "the situation room." happening now, top republican lawmakers confront the secretary of state, hillary clinton, over the attack that killed the united states ambassador and three other americans in libya. ahead, the letter cnn has obtained charging that "repeated requests for more security in the region were denied."
also, blindfolded and in distress, why many think the man in this video is an american journalist missing in syria. u.s. officials though say they aren't so sure. and backlash against the tough new child abuse law some parents claim make spanking their child a crime. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." on capitol hill right now house republican leaders want answers from the secretary of state hit lair clinton herself. cnn obtained a letter sent to secretary clinton demanding to know why more wasn't done to protect american diplomats on the ground in the months leading up to the attack on the united
states consulate in benghazi and charging that requests for additional security were ignored. cnn's foreign affairs correspondent jill dougherty is joining us from the state department now with more information, more details. what's going on here, jill? >> well, wolf, here's what we know. these congressional republicans are charging that there were numerous threats, security breaches and attacks in libya leading up to even before the attack that killed ambassador stevens and three other americans. for example, they say that ambassador stevens used to jog almost daily, frequently with his security detail. but that the -- according to their sources they say, a pro-gadhafi facebook website posted a stacked photo of stevens and also a threat against him. so he stopped temporarily stopped for about a week. and then he went back again. here's what congressman daryl issa tells cnn.
>> all indications are the ambassador was not reckless and took the advice always of his security forces including sometimes when they said meetings needed to be canceled. so i think this is a failure of intelligence, a failure of security and a failure of judgment. but not of the now-deceased ambassador. >> and, wolf, there are other incidents in fact we've been reporting on them all along that they note. one was an assailant blowing a hole in the security perimeter at the north gate of the benghazi mission tworks rocket propelled grenade rounds were fired at the benghazi office of the red cross. and finally the most serious probably was other than the killing was the convoy carrying the british ambassador was hit by a militant with a grenade. so that letter, and it's coming from the house oversight and government reform committee, says that multiple federal government officials sold them that the u.s. mission in libya made repeated requests for
increased security in benghazi but "were denied these resources by officials in washington." now, we have to note however that state department officials have told cnn that security upgrades were performed, were made to the benghazi mission because of those incidents and others. so we are expecting that secretary clinton will have a letter responding to the congressman. it's going to be short, but essentially it will pledge cooperation we are told. and also her spokesperson, victor victoria nuland was asked about this and said at this point they can't go point by point because they are still collecting information in all those documents. but here's what she said at the briefing. >> we want to get to the bottom of precisely what happened and learn any lessons that we need to learn from it. we're taking this very, very seriously. >> and the house committee does
plan on holding those hearings on october 10th. they've asked for state department officials not specifically secretary clinton herself. that by the way, wolf, is the only hearing on this issue that will take place before the presidential election. and of course the democrats are saying that that timing is political. congressman issa denies that and says at this point the indications are that they will get cooperation from the state department. >> so somebody from the state department will testify at that hearing? is that what you're hearing, jill? >> yes. i'm not sure who will, but they will be there collecting the documents as we speak. >> thank you very much, jill dougherty, reporting from the state department. let's dig deeper now with cnn's national security contributor, member of the cia advisory committee back in august she visited libya. were you aware, fran, of all of these itemized incidents leading up to 9/11, to the eleventh
anniversary of 9/11, all the security threats that were -- that the committee today discussed, were you aware all these occurred? >> not all of them, wolf. although some of them. jill didn't mention there were two references to carjackings in tripoli. the letter from the two congressmen go through not only incidents at the benghazi consulate but also in tripoli. and what they paint is a picture. and some of those i did know because i'd discussed with ambassador stevens when i visited, what it does is paint a deteriorating picture of the security detail. for those people who followed al qaeda over the last decade, you know they often return to the site of failed attacks. so the world trade center in '93, they came back in 2001. the uss cole was a time they came back after missing the uss
cull van the year before. it's another one of those facts that underscores in the counterterrorism community the likelihood that this really is an al qaeda-related attack. >> were you familiar with this other explosive allegation that the u.s. mission in libya asked for greater security but officials in washington denied that, rejected it? is that something you'd heard before? >> i had not heard that, wolf. here's the reason i suspect that the congressmen are asking for documents. likely if such a request was made, it would have been done in a cable in a document. and so there will be a paper trail from the consulate in benghazi to the embassy in tripoli to the state department headquarters and answering it back. now, some of that we know. we do know that there was some minor increase in security presence at the benghazi consulate. i think it's fair to say based on what we know now it was obviously not enough. and the question is going to be as you look into exactly what happened when, what did they know? why didn't they provide more security? and did they act in a way that
was reasonable based on what washington's understanding of the threat was? >> i spoke with the democratic leader of the house of representatives, nancy pelosi, she suggests the republicans rejected funding for increased security, in fact trimmed the state department's request by some $300 million worldwide for state department diplomatic security. clearly suggesting the republicans have some explaining to do as well. >> well, wolf, look. it's sort of inevitable in this current season that we're in that there's going to be finger pointing back and forth between the republicans and democrats. i don't have any data on constricting budgets that there probably weren't cuts taken. and we're going to have to -- part of an investigation is going to look at who took them, where and why. but i will tell you, i can remember during the bush administration the extraordinary cost of the compound, the
embassy compound in iraq. and members of congress very much questioned why it was so expensive to harden that embassy. so i don't doubt that members of congress asked questions. the real issue is going to be did they make the cuts in the right places? and did as a result of those cuts we leave diplomats vulnerable? >> the president keeps saying those who killed ambassador stevens and the three other americans, they will -- justice will be served as far as they're concerned which suggests maybe theist is going to go out and hunt for them. we're now being told here at cnn that the pentagon and cia are asking for what's called target packages or information about those who may be responsible suggesting maybe they will be targeted to be captured or killed. explain what this means. >> you know, wolf, i'd actually been surprised if this wasn't going on. so it is, you know, in the wake of the east africa embassy bombings, you'll remember president clinton ordered strikes on training camps in
afghanistan and one in sudan. so it is not uncommon after the immediate aftermath of an attack, there will be people devoted to understanding what exactly happened. the intelligence community and law enforcement will be devoted to who is responsible, who should be held accountable for it. and the military, which is the face of what we consider our hard power, will look to say based on what we know, are there targets that are vulnerable to a strike? retribution strike? and where are they and what do we know about them? they'll also, wolf, in this process identify the gaps. if there are particular intelligence gaps that they have, they'll identify those to the intelligence community, set new requirements and ask them to collect additional information. >> fran townsend, thanks very much. let's turn to syria right now. disturbing grainy video that surfaced online purportedly showing an american freelance journalist who's been missing for weeks. in it the former u.s. marine appears blindfolded and distr s
distressed surrounded by men armed with machine guns. our pentagon correspondent chris lawrence is joining us now with the latest. chris, why do u.s. officials suggest this video may have been staged? >> reporter: well, wolf, our sources tell us there are several reasons, not the least of which is the fact these so-called syrian rebels appear to be wearing afghan style clothing, not the kind we normally see in syria. now, u.s. officials say they cannot say with 100% certainty but they say it's somewhat likely that the american in this video is austin tykes. he's a former marine and had been working overseas as a journalist when he disappeared about six weeks ago. in fact, some of our sources say this video someone looked at clips of jihadists and sort of made up this video. they say normally you would think a group would want to take credit for capturing an american. but in here there's no flag. also it wasn't posted on typical jihadist forums, but facebook and youtube.
they don't even make any demands in the video. our sources say jihadists typically make videos like this in a controlled environment, like a studio. not the chaotic shots you see here. and experts and u.s. officials say normally when you see the syrian rebels they look very worn and dishevelled. reflects the hardships of fighting hard over zeseveral months. the militants in this video look clean, too clean some would say. bottom line, u.s. officials still believe austin tykes is being held by the syrian government. that begs the obvious question of why. why would bashar al assad's regime f it did, make this video like this? and one expert on syria says it goes back to the very beginning when the assad regime tried to paint the opposition as control by jihadists and foreign-backed terrorists. >> the u.s. to date has been reluctant to buy into this narrative. and they have been very afraid of painting the entire
opposition as an al qaeda-inspired revolt against the assad regime. however, this type of video would give credence and a grain of truth to assad's claims that there are very important extremists and jihadist elements operating within the opposition which would make any further action on behalf of the u.s. as regards to involvement in syria very difficult to make -- >> reporter: in other words, if the syrian rebels are dominated by groups that would kidnap and target americans, public opinion might sway against them and make it much harder for the americans to intervene in syria. wolf. >> all right. thanks very much, chris lawrence at the pentagon. let's hope they find this journalist and get him out of there quickly. he's the man credited with helping mitt romney shine during past debates. up next, his debate coach from the republican primaries telling our own dana bash what the former governor has to do tomorrow night. and have investigators uncovered
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we're just a little bit more than 24 hours away from the first presidential debate. and now it's crunch time. the pressure is on both candidates to perform. cnn's dana bash spoke with the man credited with helping mitt romney turn his debate performance around during the republican primaries. dana's here in "the situation room." so what is this former governor's aide telling you that mitt romney needs to do tomorrow night? >> first of all, his name is brett mcdonald. he not only helped mitt romney really come back with his debate performances during the republican primaries but historically helped john mccain, george w. bush and others. what he says he thinks romney should do is be "respectfully aggressive with the president" which is a tight rope. but also underscored how important it is for mitt romney
to give all dimensions -- for his aides to give him all dimensions of prep in these mock debates because it is important to focus on policy and the psychological. >> it's very important. there's three things you have to do to prepare a candidate. they have to know the policy material. they have to know the answers to the questions. the second thing is they have to know the strategy in how to execute it. but the third thing and probably the most important is they have to be mentally prepared. it's just like preparing an athlete. if they're not mentally prepared for the worst of the worst, then something will take them by surprise. and so those mock debates are extremely important. >> that is brett o'donnell, not mcdonald. said one thing about romney in particular is that he really believes from his experience with him he needs to focus on the policy, not the personal. that's where he does best. when he gets personal, he veers off into areas he doesn't want to be in. >> the talk about one-liners and
zingers they've been rehearsing and practicing, what does that say to you? >> i asked him about this he said when you talk about zingers, he hopes that's not what they're doing because that's not mitt romney. he's not inherently a funny guy. but one-liners he did practice with mitt romney and hopes he's practicing now those memorable lines that really will kind of go at the president and really destroy whatever policy argument he's making. one example he gave to me, wolf, was something that happened during the debate that you moderated during the republican praries in jacksonville. it was when you were trying to get newt gingrich to say to mitt romney's face what he was saying on the campaign trail, that he's not being transparent. listen. >> serious accusation against governor romney like that -- >> i simply suggested -- >> you need to explain that. >> do you want to try again? i mean -- >> wouldn't it be nice if people didn't make accusations at someone else they weren't willing to defend here? >> how critical was that moment? >> it was a huge moment in the
debates for governor romney. >> why? >> because in that one sentence he was able to take an issue that others had been dogging him with and put it to rest. he was able to communicate clearly if you're going to make the charge, make it on the stage. and that really put gingrich in his place. and that's happened throughout the primary debates when pawlenty wouldn't repeat the romney care charge. if the account candidate is not willing to say something face-to-face as they do in an interview, we view them as weak. that moment was a moment of strength for governor romney. >> the other thing he said which i think is true and i would bet you'd agree is that both mitt romney and president obama tend to have the same strengths and weaknesses. the weakness he's concerned about and was in the primary ss that he tends to get defensive. he really needs to control that. i know from sources talking to mitt romney in these mock
debates that's definitely one thing they've been practicing big time. >> that was certainly a key moment in the end of newt gingrich's efforts to become the republican presidential nominee. >> sure was. >> mitt romney really gave it to him at that point. we'll have much more on this coming up in our next hour. dana, thanks very much. in our next hour we're going to be speaking with representatives from both campaigns -- top advisors from both campaigns joining us. robert gibbs from the obama campaign, kevin madden from the romney campaign. lots to discuss with both of them. that's coming up here in "the situation room." ikea is now issuing an apology after its catalog sparked outrage. what did the company do? stand by. as part of a heart healthy diet. that's true. ...but you still have to go to the gym. ♪ the one and only, cheerios
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the missing teamsters boss, jimmy hoffa. an old turn, we should say. lisa sylvester's monitoring some of the other top stories in "the situation room." what's the latest? >> wolf, i don't think you're surprised by this. but test results are back from soil samples taken from a michigan home where a tipster claimed jimmy hoffa might be buried. authorities say they found no evidence of human remains. the search was the latest in the on again/off again hunt for the union leader whose disappearance 35 years ago continues to capture the public's imagination. and australia's great barrier reef has lost half of its coral since the mid-1980s. that's according to a new study that blames a species of star fish that can eat 12 square yards of coral in a year. scientists say stopping the star fish infestation is the best way to save the world's largest reef which could lose another 50% of its coral in the next decade. and swedish retailer ikea says it is sorry for air brushing images of women out of its
annual catalog for saudi arabia. in the company's ad you see a family together. but in the saudi version the female is removed. women there they still "have such a long way to go." it is true, you know, that they can't drive, they can't travel alone. so we see it all the time, wolf. >> can't appear in ikea ads. >> that's right. >> lisa, thanks very much. the moments that can make or break a presidential run. up next, we look at the best political zingers in debate history. sleek new styling... sophisticated dual cockpit design, and sport sculpted seats. available chevrolet mylink infotainment system. the all-new 2013 chevrolet malibu. ♪ refined comfort to get you in a malibu state of mind no matter what state you live in. ♪
it's crunch time for president barack obama and governor mitt romney. they're just a little more than 24 hours away from their first head-to-head debate. and all eyes will be watching for something they might share with debates from the past some memorable moments. >> saddam hussein didn't attack us, osama bin laden attacked us.
>> what's your philosophy and what's your position on issues, but can you get things done? and i believe i can. >> i don't think it's fair to say you haven't had cancer therefore you don't know what it's like. i don't think it's fair to say, you know, whatever it is. if you haven't been hit by it personally, that everybody's affected by the debt. >> my state,when people lose their jobs, it's a good chance i'll know them by their names. when a factory closes, i know the people who ran it. >> these are the kind of elements of the national health insurance quoted to the american people, governor reagan again typically is against such a proposal. >> governor, there you go again. >> let's get straight to our chief political analyst gloria borger. she's getting some unsolicited advice from our panel about this very question. gloria. >> thanks, wolf. the scary thing is, i can remember most of those moments at those debates. let's get right to it.
governor, you have been in more than one debate. i want to ask you flat out, do debates really change the outcome of elections? >> usually not. especially when you have two seasoned debaters, professionals. mostly what's going to happen in this debate is people are going to have a chance to size up mitt romney for the first time. a lot of folks who haven't tuned in are going to say do i want this guy on my television set for the next four years? >> you've also debated, tom, what do you think? >> i remember some of the "saturday night live" sketches better than the clips you showed. i think what's important is as much as the zingers make the news the next day, the thing most likely to impact voters is the sensitivity. that's often in debate than one line. >> i think in general the governor's right. they don't change elections. but if you look at the debates in 2004, 2000, where there was
movement in the polls, often three or four points and this election is unusually close. the polling average shows about 3.5 lead for barack obama right now. so it could be that this would be the rare election where yu actually -- >> this is a rare election. >> where you have debates that matter. >> what it does is give mitt romney to really crystallize the contract. the debate moments, those moments are important because they codify. remember '94 people thought he's too old, he's not going to make it and the second one he came back and saying he's not going to use my opponent's youth and inexperience against him. everybody laughed. >> this is a big thing for romney, right? romney needs zingers maybe at his own expense, right? >> he's going to toss one at himself? >> he's going to humanize ims himself. and being receive dep ro kating
is better than having some canned overrehearsed line about president boem. >> that can be about policy too. i found when i was running it's when i said something people disagreed with me on they started to believe the other things i was saying. >> that's always been a problem for romney. >> and i think there is that question about, you know, whether it's a matter of trying to lock up his base appealing to independents and i think he's been stuck between the two showing a moment where he's willing to say something that some people disagree with can also mean a lot more. >> but isn't the problem with mitt romney is that he's not really good at the improve, which is what you're talking about. he might have a zinger in his back pocket -- >> neither one is good at improv. >> but he's better at power point than -- >> here's where i categorize both of them. if i was in the room right now with mitt or obama, i would say we're not going to talk anymore about policy. we're not going to go over the notes anymore. you know everything you already need to know. you need to be likable.
you need to be able to get people to trust you. >> romney needs to do something on policy to get people to trust him to reassure people he's not just on the side of the rich. he can't avoid substance completely. he has to say something that gets him over the hump. >> issues divide, values unite. when you're asked a question, talk about your family. talk about an experience -- >> no. >> if that's true, the problem is people have to believe that you believe those values. and i think mitt romney hasn't been able to close the deal on that credibility gap. and the only way to do that is with personal experience or policy that reflects on that rather than just a good line. >> it's independent voters we're talking about middle class voters and low income voters, they're important. independent voters are important too. and independent voters are sick of the lack of bipartisanship in washington. one thing mitt romney hasn't done is gone back to his actual legislative experience of passing bipartisan historic
reforms. but now is the moment. now is the opportunity for mr. fix-it, mr. romney who's actually can bring bipartisan reform to washington, he's actually been able to pass historic bipartisan reforms president obama hasn't done in a bipartisan way. >> unfortunately, what would come up from that is, well, you might have been able to do some of those things, but you couldn't even run for re-election because your approval ratings were in the low 40s. so there's the problem. >> i want to disagree with the governor at my own peril, which is to say that i believe romney has to provide some meat on the bones here because the argument against him is that, okay, you've got this great budget planned, but how are you going to reform the tax code? >> if you look at what they did in the convention, the theory of the convention was the governor's theory. prove that mitt romney isn't a robot, that he is a human being, that he loves his wife, he loves his kids and so on. they were pretty successful at that. but beyond that then you have to say here's why he's not going to end medicare as we know it.
here's why he's actually going to help the middle class. i think that's the sale he has to close if he can. >> i want barack obama to win this election. soy hope mitt romney stands up there and gives us a lot of issues. the more things he tells us he's for and against, the fewer people are going to vote for him. those are the facts. >> i just got back from ohio, colorado, nevada. people want to know what this means at kitchen table. they've come to believe his tax plan raises taxes on the middle class, they believe the outsourcing issue. i happen to believe those things too, but we can have a policy debate about it until he convinces working middle class americans that he's not pushing an agenda that's going to cost them a lot at the kitchen table. i agree with you, normally you wouldn't go there. >> if voters think that the republican candidate is going to raise their taxes, that candidate will lose. >> yeah. exactly. let me just ask -- we haven't talked about president obama a lot. i mean, isn't this harder on the incumbent generally? >> expectations are always low. the incumbent, he hasn't been practicing. he's been president of the
united states. >> oh, right, i forgot. >> so the incumbent's always have a disadvantage. they have a disadvantage going into the first debate as we said in 1984 ronald reagan overprepared and he actually did worse. >> the democratic surrogates talking down the president, they actually make a pretty convincing case. >> he has to defend himself too. >> he does have to defend himself. by the way, once you've been president and you've had people running around you handing you everything you ever needed for the last three and a half years, it's difficult to stand in front of people and have somebody wag their finger at you and say, now you answer this question. >> you could see that with bush in '04 that he seemed a little pe pet lent at times. >> didn't they do that to you as governor? >> it's tricky. even though he becomes a candidate, he has to speak in a certain way different than the leeway that a candidate has. >> okay. we're going to have to take a quick break right now. when we come back we're going to get my esteemed panelists unsolicited advice and maybe some from me. stay with us. does your phone give you all day battery life ?
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and we're back with unsolicited advice from our esteemed panel. let me start with you, margaret. >> full disclosure here as a gopper, far be et for me to give advice to vice president biden. >> but you will. >> for somebody who says the middle class has been buried for the last four years, yeah, if they put him on a teleprompter and said don't go off the script, we probably would be able to have time to talk about specifics as we all would like to do instead of having this kind of thing gobble up the news cycle for a day. >> particularly a day before the debate for joe biden to say that the middle class has been buried for the last four years -- even
though he said it started under bush. >> this is a test, right? because biden has had sort of a get out of free jail card on gaffes for the last four years. everybody's like it's joe biden, god love him. he can say what he wants. maybe now it matters. >> let's get the democrats at the table here. >> yeah. you know, first of all, i'm not sure it's a get out of jail free card if someone standing next to him in danville, virginia, a few weeks ago, i can say there was plenty of coverage around those conversations. ultimately what the middle class is going to look at is who do they believe is looking out for them. people are going to make their own judgment. i think voters are a lot smarter than they're often given credit for. they're going to look at policy and values and whoever goes up and says, hey, this is what's going on, they'll close the deal. i think people are more than ready to move on from obama. mitt romney was unable to give them that answer. >> you're giving him a pass? >> i'll give him a pass. >> why am i not surprised? okay. and your unsolicited advice. >> my advice is for woody
johnson who not only owns the new york jets but is the co-chair of the romney campaign. he said the other day he would rather win the presidency than have a winning season. well, he's already off to a good start. he lost 34-0 against the niners. and i've noticed that his candidate actually mitt romney has thrown more interceptions than tony romo. >> right. you need tim tebow. >> i'm saying bench mitt and bring in tebow. >> so i'm going to take us away from politics completely. i'll save my debate advice for tomorrow. my advice is for jenny mccarthy. many of you know she's famous for making the argument that vaccines cause autism, which is an argument most of the scientific community vigorously disputes. now she's out with a new book about her background as a catholic. she's in a nun's ha bot. something like up from catholicism or my escape from catholicism. i'm catholic, we're used to sort
of taking fire and so on. my advice to her is think a little harder. there's a combination here. you can do both at once. you can have a book called why catholicism causes autism. it's a genius marketing move. jenny, if you're listening. >> as long as we made the transition from playmates to nuns, my advice to both campaigns, a group of nuns in ohio have invited both campaigns to come join them in about a week to spend time with those who actually are struggling on the margins of poverty which so many are including working and middle class folks, spend a real day with them. they've invited both campaigns. nuns in ohio seems like the kind of thing smart for both campaigns to take seriously. i think they've really raised the level of debate for those often left out of the conversation. >> being catholic myself bishops are most likely for mitt romney and the nuns are for barack obama. >> well, i can tell you f that showdown comes down among american catholics, i think the democrats will do pretty well.
i think what you've seen and the bishops have come out with a strong statement against the ryan budget, against some of the cuts that have come out there saying, yes, charity's important but government has a role to play and those most vulnerable. >> i think catholics will be report in ohio. okay. you want to hear my unsolicited advice -- maybe you don't, which is to all of those republican die-hards who are now saying there is some conspiracy among pollsters to make mitt romney look bad in the polls and depress the turnout for republicans, i say come on. there's a conspiracy between say the pugh research center and democratic pollsters -- and you're a republican consultant, right? >> i am. the polling is pretty uniform. >> but this is something what republicans are complaining about is sort of sample size, right? saying this poll oversamples
democrats. >> that's what we'll debate. >> i don't think it is much of a debate. >> well, you can. >> it's a debate democrats had in 2004 where they're saying they're oversampling for bush. i think republicans should look back to 2004 when democrats were saying some of the same things and recognize usually individual polls get it wrong, but if you average them, it's usually pretty close. >> i love it because the republicans are already looking for all the excuses that they're going to lose the election. >> one of the things that surprises me is the polls aren't that bad. as you said before, it's not like this is out of reach. this is a very live election tochlt go to that instead of saying you moved this thing three or four points and this is a very different race. >> not a vote of confidence in mitt romney. >> it isn't. and there are a lot more polls to come. you can be sure on the debate tomorrow night. back to you, wolf. >> thank you very much, gloria. thanks for some unsolicited advice from our panel. the pressure is now on for president obama and governor romney as they prepare for their first debate.
their wives sit down with cnn. that's coming up in our 6:00 p.m. eastern hour. you're going to hear the advice they have for their husbands. pinch... and zoom... in your car. introducing the all-new cadillac xts with cue. ♪ don't worry. we haven't forgotten, you still like things to push. [ engine revs ] the all-new cadillac xts has arrived, and it's bringing the future forward. humans -- even when we cross our t's and dot our i's, we still run into problems. namely, other humans.
new law in delaware sparking controversy over parents' rights, with some saying it makes it illegal for parents to spank their children. lisa sylvester taking a closer look at this new law. lisa, what are you finding out? it's dividing parents. >> it is. it's a new law that makes it easier for prosecutors to go after child abusers. and it changes the wording of the law from having to show "substantial pain" to "pain." conservative families are pushing back, saying this is a case of the government telling parents that they cannot spank
their children. but the parameters of the law are clear. they say this does not take away any parental rights. nicole is the mother of a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old. she's also the spokeswoman for the delaware county family council that advocates for family values. the tice is upset about a law signed by delaware's governor last month and particularly this one phrase. it defines physical injury as a child to any impairment of physical condition or pain. the delaware family policy council calls it a ban on parental spanking. >> well, that is so subjective. think about it, i have a 2-year-old and my 2-year-old reaches up for something very hot that could hurt that 2-year-old, and i reach out and i swat that little 2-year-old's hand, causing them some pain and discomfort, so it will be remembered, not to do that again, you know, according to the way this bill is written, that is a class "a" misdemeanor that i could be punishable for a whole year in prison.
>> reporter: but delaware attorney general beau biden, vice president biden's son, says the old law needed to be changed, because it was difficult to prosecute cases where a child was too young to speak or nonverbal. >> we had examples of cases where children were being burned or children were being -- their bones broken at the hands of a perpetrator or an abuser. and we would struggle -- we would have a difficult time under the old law prosecuting that at the highest felony level. >> reporter: the law lowers the threshold for prosecution and creates different classes of child abuse offenses. but prosecutors still have to prove physical injury that results from a reckless or intentional act. but does that amount to an outright ban against corporal punishment by parents? proponents of the law will point to another section of the delaware code, that says parents are justified in the use of force. that is, to spank a child if it is reasonable and moderate. >> we didn't touch spanking. what we did is say if you're going to spank them is one
thing. if you're going to cause them against the wall and causing bleeding in their brain or disconnect their head from their spine because they're 4 months, that's going to be child abuse, only if you only meant to spank them. >> reporter: it might seem intuiti intuitive, but nicole tice still believes the law as written is overbroad and could impact well-intentioned parents. >> you interpret a law by how it's written. so five years from now, ten years from now, you know, you go by what is written. and it says pain. and no one knows how pain is going to be interpreted. >> but this law had a clear majority of support. it passed overwhelming in the state house, 34-7. in the state senate, it passed unanimously. and the attorney general's office says, here's the bottom line, babies, very young children, but they should never be spanked, but for older children, open handed swat to the bottom, that is fine. but if a parent starts leaving belts, buckles, brooms, something that leaves a mark,
that is likely to be considered child abuse. >> thank you very much for that report. everyone is talking about what you'll see at tomorrow's first presidential debate, but what about what you'll hear? we're taking a closer look at some of the key words both candidates are likely to use. a, i went to the citi private pass page and decided to be...not boring. that's how i met marilyn... giada... really good. yes! [ jack ] ...and alicia. ♪ this girl is on fire [ male announcer ] use any citi card to get the benefits of private pass. more concerts, more events, more experiences. [ jack ] hey, who's boring now? [ male announcer ] get more access with the citi card. [ crowd cheering, mouse clicks ] silverado! the most dependable, longest lasting, full-size pickups on the road. so, what do you think? [ engine revs ] i'll take it. [ male announcer ] it's chevy truck month. now during chevy truck month,
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[ male announcer ] tempur-pedic. the most highly recommended bed in america. [ female announcer ] for more information or to find a retailer near you, visit tempurpedic.com. politics is all about words, and when it comes to debates, many time words are the best weapons candidates have. here's cnn's john berman. >> wolf, it was the great political operative, william shakespeare, who once asked, what's in a name? a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. well, in political campaigns, everything's in a name, or a word. and frankly, some smell awful.
if you listen to the republicans, president obama doesn't merely support government, but -- >> big government. >> old government. >> barack obama's government-centered society. >> reporter: and if you listen to the democrats, mitt romney doesn't want medicare reform, he wants -- >> a plan called voucher care! >> a voucher program in order to pay for tax cuts. voucherize medicare. >> reporter: these are no mere word games. these are word bombs. and make no mistake, the campaigns have gone nuclear. >> the words you use end up defining ideas. and that's what people take into their hearts when they go to the ballot box. >> reporter: cnn contributor john avalon is a former political speechwriter. >> it becomes a contest to see whose idea can get in the american heart and mind faster and first. >> reporter: for instance. >> we have a president who believes in a european socialist model. >> we see a president who wants to make america into a european-style social welfare state. >> reporter: i will continue fighting to defeat the president's agenda of socialism. >> all of a sudden you call
something socialism, everyone's got a license to stop thinking critically about it. if there's one thing america ain't, it's socialist. >> reporter: and language can be more subtle. >> this campaign is about the middle class. >> without raising taxes on middle class families. >> you kill the middle class. >> if we're going to build a secure economy that strengthens the middle class, then we're going to have to do more. >> reporter: this campaign, there is an epic race to the middle, or at least to say, middle class, which by some measurement, makes up 49% of voters. why? >> the middle class is something, as a phrase, that has huge importance to the vast majority of americans who aren't even necessarily members of the middle class. >> reporter: the fight over phrases, the war over words, it is the battleground of politics. as margaret thatcher's character says in "the iron lady" -- >> watch your words, or they become actions. watch your actions, for they become habits. watch your habits, for they become your character. and watch your character, for it
becomes your destiny. >> how important are words? well, we keep hearing how the candidates are practicing zingers or phrases for these debates. they know very well that what they say will be repeated and repeated again for the next month. wolf? happening now. countdown to debate night. two big players in the battle for the white house join us live. obama adviser robert gibbs and romney adviser, kevin madden. candid interviews with the candidates' wives. michelle obama and ann romney talk to cnn. plus, a potentially dangerous mystery involving seats on american airlines planes. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." we're counting down to
debate night in america. if first face-to-face contest between president obama and the man who would like to replace him in the oval office, governor mitt romney. both campaigns have a tremendous amount riding on the outcome of tomorrow night's showdown in denver. let's go straight to denver and our national -- chief national correspondent, john king. john. we're only a little bit more than 24 hours away from this first presidential debate. what's happening right now? >> well, wolf, the main event is tomorrow night. that's when the american people get to hear directly from president obama and governor romney in a debate that will be largely focused on the economy and domestic issues. but today, today is more what you have of the preparations and the ritual day. we can't show you a live picture inside the debate hall right now, because both of the candidates' senior staff are going through and checking out every last detail. do we like where the podiums are? do we like the lighting? is there anything in the hall we want to relay to our candidate or complain to the organizers? that's a part of the ritual, it
happens all the time. it is a reminder that we've never seen governor romney in a one-on-one presidential debate and it's been four years since president obama had that experience against john mccain. so they're making sure everybody will be comfortable in the hall. the candidates do their own walk-throughs tomorrow to get comfortable with thatstage. but they're doing their final debate preps and the campaign staffs are conducting their pre-debate ritual, wolffe. >> and as they go through this, they actually do, you know, actual 90-minute or so q&a sessions, real debates, they got people pretending to be others, but they actually work through what's going on. >> reporter: they do. and both of the candidates have said that they're being grilled pretty hard in these debate sessions. senator john kerry, democrat of massachusetts, he's standing in for governor romney. senator rob portman, republican of ohio who's done this for years on the republican side, he's standing in for president obama. and both president obama and romney say they're getting
roughed up. the president took a break, he had a campaign event out in nevada and after that he stopped by to witness the hoover dam. they're taking a break from these preparations. but when you talk to the staffs, they say both senator kerry and senator portman are being pretty tough. because the main point tomorrow is make your policy proposals. for governor romney, he has to say the president has failed. what would he do differently in the economy? for the president, to defend the economic record and the other proposal of the last four years. but the tell, the substance is most of the debate, but you don't want to make a mistake. you don't want to look at your watch or sigh or do something that could offend people out the there. so we're told all of these sessions, not all of them, but most of these sessions are recorded so the staff can go back and laook at them and if necessary, go back and tell the candidate, sir, maybe you don't want to do that in such a high-stakes debate. >> thanks very much. john's in denver for us. mitt romney is talking about the debates and the expectations
surrounding tomorrow night's contest. kate balduan is here. she's watching this part of the story as well. >> of course. as john king just noted, he's in full debate prep mode today. but listen to what romney said last night at a rally in denver. >> there's a lot of interest surrounding the debate. and people want to know, who's going to win. who's going to score the punches and who's going to make the biggest difference and the arguments it makes and all the scoring of winning and losing. and you know, in my view, it's not so much winning and losing or even the people themselves, the president and myself. it's about something bigger than that. these debates are an opportunity for each of us to describe the pathway forward for america that we would choose. and the american people are going to have to make their choice as to what kind of america do they want. >> so how does he plan to lay out that choice for americans tomorrow night? let's talk about that and more with romney senior campaign adviser, kevin madden. kevin, thanks very much for coming in.
we're a little over 24 hours away from the first debate. how is governor romney preparing for this right now? >> reporter: well, you know, a lot of what john said earlier is true. the fact that president obama, he's actually the only person on stage who has actually been in these general election, nationally televised, one on one debates. so a lot of what we've been trying to do in our preparation is just get used to this sort of game day conditions that come with these. practicing at a podium, parrying back and forth. senator portman has been very good at making the case and parrying back and forth with governor romney. so a lot of that preparation, a lot of our efforts gone into that type of preparation. but also offering the governor is actually really focused on crystallizing the choice for a lot of voters. you played that clip earlier from the event last night. and i think that's really important to him. he really wants those voters out there who haven't made up their mind to really see the important
contrast on the big issues between the two candidates on stage tomorrow night. >> now, kevin, you talked about crystallizing the choices. one of the topics that's sure to come up is health care in tomorrow's debate. i want to remind you and remind our viewers, of course, of something that senator rick santorum said during a primary debate that wolf actually moderated back in january. listen to this. >> you just said the top-down government-run medicine in massachusetts works well. folks, we can't give this issue away in this election. >> now, governor romney, though, recently, kevin, had said even to nbc news, i think it was even just last week, that it was a sign of empathy and that it showed how much he cared that he had made sure that everybody in his state was insured. so what is it going to be tomorrow night? is he going to fully embrace the health care that he put in place, the health care reform he put in place in massachusetts? >> reporter: well, look, there are very big differences in how governor romney and president
obama approach the issue of health care. the first thing you have to remember, which is one of the most important things on health care, which is that governor romney didn't apply a one size fits all federal standard, that's spanned $1.7 trillion at a time where the american people felt like we didn't have it, while also raiding medicare, $716 billion to pay for that. governor romney's was a plan that was applied to one state. it was applied to a unique health care population in that state, which was about 7 million people. not like what we've seen with president obama, where he essentially took one-sixth of the american economy. reorganized it, applied that federal standard, and said, let's see if this works. i think the american people have judged that plan very harshly, because it wasn't bipartisan, it hasn't brought down costs. it hasn't been something that's helped a lot of health care consumers. it's putting government between many patients and their doctors, so there are very big differences there. tomorrow night, with the case on how to go forward with health care, what to really do to bring down those costs, i think that's
going to be discussed and we look forward to that debate. i know governor romney does. >> on the issue of illegal immigration, kevin, the governor says he won't try to change what the president did by executive order, recently, allow children of illegal immigrants who were brought here to this country or raised in this country to be deported. they can get a special two-year visa. he's going to let them stay. why did it take him so long to articulate this position? >> reporter: well, look, we've had a debate on immigration throughout this campaign. ic one of the important points that governor romney is going to make is president obama has failed on the issue of immigration reform. he promised to offer more comprehensive, wholesale change on immigration reform, it was going to be his first bill, he hasn't done that. and i think as a result, many americans are not happy with the lack of progress on that issue. and on the particular issue of those waivers, governor romney has said that those that have acquired the waivers, that he would allow those waivers to stand. but what he would do, which would be much more important, i think for solving the overall problem is modernize our
immigration system so we can allow immigration, so many of the people can see ways where they can move on a path towards citizenship and they can help grow our economy and secure ore border. those are going to be very big differences. i think many people are rightly upset that president obama failed on this issue and i think he even said it was one of his greatest failures. there have been so many economic failure failures, the failure to create jobs or bring down the deficit. >> kevin, i want to get to some smalls we have on latino likely voters, but i want to quickly ask you, why did governor romney wait to this point to bring this forward on immigration policy? >> well, kate, we've had a lot of discussions on this issue. i think this was an opportunity where a question was asked, specifically on that question, and the governor answered it. he did talk in expansive terms about immigration, what he would do to modernize the immigration system, how it's an important part of our economy. during his recent interview that
he had with univision. and i think it will continue to be a part of this debate. >> kevin, i want to show you, we put up on our screen for our viewers some new polling we have out today, showing that president obama really has an overwhelming lead among likely latino voters. 70 to 26 for governor romney. are now aggressively courting the latino vote, are you expecting to get anywhere near or beyond what senator mccain got back in 2008, which was 31%? >> well, kate, thank you for the question. we've been working very hard on courting hispanic voters. it's been an important part of our outreach efforts. we're going to continue to do it as we go through this campaign. we've been working with a lot of great republicans, hispanic republicans, that are really leaders in our party. folks like marco rubio, to do exactly that. so we're going to continue to try to work there. we're going to try to look at all these demographics where we need to have improvements and continue to get every single voter, reach out to every single voter and talk to governor romney about exactly what he would do to set the country on a
better course, and why he would be better for many of these voters than president obama has been. >> that 70 to 26 number is huge right now, among likely latino voters. you're doing better in the national polls among likely voters right now, but in these states, florida, for example, we did poll of polls, 50/45. new hampshire, 51/42 for obama. iowa, 50/44. ohio, 51/44. these are pretty worrisome numbers at this stage, aren't they, kevin? >> look, the one thing you have to remember, wolffe, and i think even democrats will say this, public opinion is not an event, it's a process. the polls are going to go up, the polls are going to go down. i think we're very -- i think this race is exactly where we all expected it to be, which is it's a very close race. i think a lot of our data and a lot of the research that we see has shown this to be a field goal race, both nationally and in many of these early -- many of these early -- i'm sorry, many of these battleground states. so we're going to continue to work very hard. we've got 34 plus days to get
our message out, make sure that our grassroots volunteers across all these states are getting out. voter-to-voter contact, telling their friends and neighbors that they need to come out and support governor romney. and the poll that matters the most, i know it's a cliche, but the poll that matters to the most of us is the one that's on election day. >> kevin madden, thanks very much. we'll stay in touch with you, obviously, over these next five weeks. >> i'm sure. absolutely. great to be you. >> thank you. is and in just a few minutes, we're going to hear from the obama campaign senior adviser, robert gibbs. he's standing by to join us as well. he's in denver. meanwhile, michelle obama and ann romney, they both -- both of them go one on one with cnn. the candidates' wives talking candidly, openly about the debates and a lot more. we'll hear from each of them. that's coming up next. also, loose seats found on more american airlines planes. dozens are now being inspected as this mystery grows. ♪
their husbands will be in the spotlight tomorrow night, but first lady michelle obama and ann romney will both play important roles at the first presidential debate. both women spoke to cnn about it. we're going to hear from ann romney in just a moment. but first, here's cnn's chief white house correspondent, jessica yellin, with details of her interview with the first lady. >> wolffe, when i sat down for my exclusive interview with mrs. obama, she was campaigning with her brother, craig robinson, and she told me how she'll feel when she's in the audience for the big night watching the president debate. >> i get so nervous at these debates. you know, i'm like one of those parents watching their kid on the balance beam. you're just standing there, just trying not to, you know, have any expression at all. >> i've read that before a speech, you tell him, have fun, but a debate's a little bit different, because it's more of a competition, more like a game of one on one. what's your motivational advice
to him before -- >> you know, he doesn't need much advice. he's been doing this for quite some time. so he knows the job. he's been doing it for quite some time. he's a very good debater. so i do tell him to have fun and relax and just be himself, because the truth is, if he's the barack obama the country has come to know and trust, he's going to do a great job. >> now, some of his aides have said, one of his challenges is to keep the answers short. and i know that you have said that you critique his speeches afterwards? >> oh, no, i don't critique his speeches afterwards, actually. you know, i give him my positive reinforcement. >> only positive? >> generally, yeah, because he's a great speaker. you know? i mean, he's good at this. >> so do you think he has any challenges going in? >> you know, i haven't really, you know, i'd have to think about that afterwards, but going into it, i think he's going to do his st. >> the first lady is definitely on message, and no surprise, she's one of the campaign's most
popular speakers. she's done 87 fund-raisers and 35 rallies in ten different battleground states. i did try, but the first lady would not offer any critique of the president's debate style, no matter how constructive. and wolffe, we'll have more of my exclusive interview with the first lady tomorrow night before the big debate. >> thanks very, very much jessica yellin. good work. >> let's bring in our chief political analyst, deploreglori borger, who sat down with ann romney just recently to talk about debates. what did she have to say about the debate prep? >> i went to reno, nevada, last week, where ann romney was campaigning. the first question i started, we really wanted to talk about these debates and how her husband prepares and her role in this. so i asked her if she was going to be the mitt stabilizer, which is what her kids call her most of the time. so take a look. >> i think that that's my role
for mitt, especially when he's going through such a difficult time. i'm there for him. we're there for each other emotionally all the time. in the last 20 debates that we did in the primary, i felt that was my most important role. >> so how do you do that? you know, it's a cute thing that he does. almost after every answer, he finds me in the audience. as soon as he gets on stage, the first thing he does is takes off his watch and puts it on the podium, but then he writes "dad" on the piece of paper. mm, and that's amazing, because he loves his dad, respects his dad, doesn't want to do anything that would not make his father proud. and just a reminder that, yes, i'm here, but dad, i love and respect who you are, what you've taught me, what kind of a person you are, and i'm going to honor that. so i love the fact that mitt does that. so he writes that and then he looks in the audience and finds me. he has to find where i am. he just -- he needs just that
connection. and almost after every answer that he gives, health find me in the audience. to see, was that good? was that okay? >> but what do you do? >> good, good. >> what if you don't like what he did? >> ohh -- no, you know, i don't do any of that. are >> so even on stage -- >> there's an emotional connection that's happening between the two of us during the debate itself. >> now, mrs. romney also told me that her husband has to make that same kind of emotional connection to the audience during the debate. and by the way, she also took the time to take on her husband's critics within the republican party. you know they've been saying his campaign isn't being run the right way. and then she also talked about how hard and often frustrating it is to try and get a campaign message across right in the heat of the battle. so she was pretty candid during this interview. >> most of these women are really impressive. and the polls show, gloria, you know this, that they are actually more likable than their
respective husbands. >> there's a reason. they are more likable. >> how do they translate that likability to help their husbands, especially on a debate night? >> well, i think what you saw ann romney trying to do and what she's been trying to do throughout this campaign is really be her husband's chief character witness. what she says is, look, if i love this man and i'm a likable, warm, human being, then you ought to consider him as somebody who is warm and likable, because his big problem right now is that he doesn't connect with people by a three-to-one margin, people believe that president obama understands their problems. so her job on the campaign trail is to tell voters, you know what, my husband really does understand the struggles you're going through. and they didn't use her a lot during the primaries. i think they finally discovered, maybe late in the game, that she's actually a very good campaign surrogate for them. very, very strong. >> glad you went out to reno, nevada, to sit down with ann
romney. good work on gloria's park and jessica's part. and you can see a lot more of both of these interviews tomorrow night. it's all part of our special coverage of the first presidential debate. our special coverage begins 7:00 p.m. eastern. "debate night in america" right here on cnn and cnn.com. still ahead, the u.s. is eyeing potential targets in libya, linked to the deadly attack on an american consulate there. new details coming in from the pentagon. [ male announcer ] whether it's kevin's smartphone... mom's smartphone... dad's tablet... or lauren's smartphone... at&t has a plan built to help make families' lives easier.
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cnn has confirmed that the u.s. is preparing for a possible strike against targets in libya linked to the consulate attack that killed u.s. ambassador chris stevens and three other americans. cnn pentagon correspondent barbara starr is working this story for us. barbara, what new are you learning? >> kate, let's explain to everybody what we're talking about here, when we say that in fact the u.s. intelligence community, the u.s. military is in the very preliminary stages of assembling target lists, possible militant personnel to go after inside libya responsible for that attack. it is what they do. the cia, the military commando units, they gathering intelligence. we know they have been doing that since the attack. they put it together, with all the information they have, satellite imagery, communication
intercepts, what they know about a militant organization. some of these groups in eastern libya and they develop a potential target list. this is very preliminary work we are told, assembling that list so they will be ready if president obama were to ask for it. there's no decision to do it. it's not even ready, really. it's not fully cooked. still gathering intelligence, we are told. but this is another stage in all of this. gathering the information, putting it together, figuring out how much they really have, and whether they have the targets they can go after. what an official tells us is names are being teed up, in his words. kate? >> something we'll continue to watch very closely. barra star at the pentagon for us this evening. thanks so much, barbara. >> thanks very much, indeed. the romney campaign is seizing on a remark today by the vice president joe biden. we have details of what he said, how the obama campaign is reacting. the senior adviser, robert gibbs, is standing by to join us live. get outta the car.
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the vice president joe biden is giving the romney campaign a fresh target, only 24 hours before the first presidential debate. >> republicans are seizing on what biden said about america's middle class at a rally in charlotte, north carolina. take a listen. >> this is deadly earnest. how they can justify, how they can justify raising taxes on the middle class has been buried the last four years. how in lord's name can they justify raising their taxes with these tax cuts? >> the romney campaign jumped all over that, first from the candidate's twitter account, saying this. "romney agrees with joe biden, the middle class has been buried the last four years, which is why we need a change in november." and out on the campaign trail, vice presidential nominee paul ryan hammered it home. >> vice president biden just
today said that the middle class over the last four years has been, quote, buried. we agree. that means we need to stop digging by electing mitt romney, the next president of the united states. >> all right. let's get some reaction right now from the obama campaign. the senior adviser, robert gibbs, is joining us live from denver, the site of the debate tomorrow night. so, was the vice president right, robert? has the middle class been buried, in his words, over the last four years? >> wolf, they've been buried by a series of bad economic decisions that led to an economic catastrophe that happened four years ago. joe biden and barack obama have been talking about this for four years, and quite frankly the last four years on the campaign trail, we've been digging out from all these bad decisions. and look, they're relevant today, because what mitt romney wants to do is take all those bad decisions, huge tax cuts for the wealthy instead of the middle class, letting wall street write its own rules, he
wants to go back to all of that. because for some reason, he remembers those as good economic times. but the middle class doesn't remember those as good economic times. we have dug out, we've added jobs in the past 30 minutes for the private sector. and that's what's important and that's what this choice will be about. >> but i assume you agree, if you had your way, a do-over, he could have phrased it a little bit better than he did. i understand what you're saying and i certainly appreciate what he probably wanted to say, but the way it came out was not necessarily politically smart. >> well, look, wolf, i think the debate tomorrow is going to be the choice that joe biden exactly set up today. he was talking about the fact that mitt romney's got a $5 trillion tax plan for the wealthy. when paul ryan was asked to explain the math on this, he said he didn't have sometime. the problem isn't the lack of time to explain the $5 trillion plan, it's the math that's involved in it. and we've seen study after study, economically, that in order to pay for a $5 trillion
tax cut for the wealthy, he increases taxes on the middle class. that's not a way to build the economy. it's a way to build the economy if you're mitt romney and you want to do it from the top down, but not from the middle out. that's what this debate will be about tomorrow. >> i want to move on. how would you have phrased that one line? what would have been a better way to say it? >> well, look, i'm not going to parse the words of the vice president. i thought it was very clear. i don't think anybody misunderstood what he was talking about. look, the romney campaign is at a point where they true to seize on one syllable or one inflection point to try to make things into this gaffe or that gaffe. i'm happy to have this debate. >> well, robert, we will move on, but you know that both sides pick at that game, picking at every word and every syllable to pick up a gaffe and put out a press release out about it. >> it's been an gold medal
olympic sport. >> good one. mitt romney, he may have given us a little preview of what he'll be saying in the debate tomorrow. listen to what he had to say at a rally on monday. >> this economy is not in recovery. we're not seeing a real recovery. the president's policies have not worked. he doesn't get that. he doesn't understand that. >> so mitt romney's probably referring to a few things there. number one, that the president made that comment in the path that the private sector is doing fine. he's probably also referring to the fact that gdp was 1.3% in the second -- in the second quarter. what is president obama's message against this tomorrow? the economy is not working in his favor when you list out those folks, going into this debate. >> well, kate, what i think you'll see the president do tomorrow is talk about where we've come. you mentioned 1.3% gdp growth, which everyone wants to be stronger, but we're reminded that the quarter before barack obama became president, it was negative 9%. we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. we're not nearly where we want
to be, but we're on a path moving forward and we're moving in a positive direction. i think you'll see the president tomorrow night have -- try to have a discussion directly with the american people about where we've been, but most importantly, where we need to keep going to continue strengthening this economy. whether it's doubling our exports, whether it's bring back manufacturing jobs into this country, whether it's improving our educational system with new math and science teachers. a whole host of things that we can continue to do to strengthen our economy, put the middle class back to work, and give them a real sense of security. >> the pew research center came out with a poll. they asked the question, who will do a better job in wednesday's debate? this is registered voters. look at this, robert, 51% thought the president would do a better job. romney, 29%. i assume this puts a lot of pressure on the president. he's really got to deliver, doesn't he? >> reporter: well, look, you know, i think the president certainly has come on to the scene, and you heard him give big speeches, but this is a very
different format. you know, the president hasn't done this in four years, but, look, and i think the president looks at this not as a boxing match, or as you've heard the romney campaign talk about they're practicing zingers and, you know, sharp lines. i think what the president, again, wants too is have a direct conversation with the american people. talk to them about where they are and where we need to go. and i think if he does that, we'll do just fine. >> and real quick, robert, let me ask you -- let me put it to you this way. what do we think is the president's -- because we know you're very complimentary of him and support him. what do you think the president's biggest liability is going into the debate? >> kate, you're trying to get me in trouble on national tv. >> never. >> look, i think you've seen articles about this and others have talked about it. you know, you get a very short window of time to give an answer. and sometimes the president has brevity problems. so i'm sure they've done some work on that in the past few
days. he hasn't gotten as much practice because of events around the world, as he might like, but again, i think he looks at this as a real opportunity to talk directly to the american people. >> we're looking forward to him, we're looking forward to romney. it will be a strong debate. robert, thanks vy much for coming in. >> thanks, robert. >> thanks for having me. >> thank you. >> cnn, by the way, has now confirmed that even more planes have been impacted by those airline seats aboard american airlines, those 757s, tumbling over in flight. so what's causing it? we have new details of a potentially dangerous mystery.
all right, imagine this. sitting in an airplane seat during takeoff, and it tumbles over backwards. >> i know. that's what happened to some passengers on an american airlines flight, whose seats were loose, and it's not an isolated incident. that's what's so interesting about this. cnn's brian todd has been
working this story for us. brian, what are you finding out now? >> kate, wolf, we've learned that a total of six aircraft in the american airlines fleet have each been discovered to have had a row of seats that was not properly secured. the airline is now inspecting a total of 47 planes. this comes after two flights had to divert because seats came loose. twice within 48 hours, whole rows of seats on american airlines 757s become dislodged. first on saturday, an american flight from boston to miami has to divert to new york's jfk airport. a passenger who doesn't want to be identified, describes what happened. >> the seats flipped backwards. it was actually a complete nightmare. and so people were essentially on the laps of the passengers behind them. >> and here's the pilot, radioing in to air traffic control. >> during climb-out, rows -- passenger seats row 12 d, e, and
f came loose out of the floor. passengers are unable to sit in that seat. the seat is loose. we don't want that thing flying around and hurting the passengers behind them. >> reporter: then on monday, a flight from jfk to miami has to return to new york. same problem. >> our seats 14 a, b, and c, i think are totally disconnected. >> reporter: american airlines now says a total of six aircraft in its fleet each had a row of seats that were not properly secured. the airline says it's investigating, inspecting 47 of its planes. no one was injured in these incidents, but kevin hyatt of the flight safety operation says it's obviously dangerous. >> your risk is much higher of injuring your passenger if you get into some type of a turbulent flight situation. this is definitely something not to be taken lightly. >> reporter: hyatt says american is in the process of refurbishing the cabins of its planes. the faa says there are indications that seats on both planes had recently been removed, undergone maintenance, and been reinstalled. american says the seats came
lose because clamps on the legs were not properly installed. this is just the latest in a series of setbacks for american airlines, which is now in bankruptcy. it's been battling recently with its major unions over contract terms. and over the past month, about 12,000 american flights have been delayed, more than 1,000 canceled. american has blamed the slowdown on what it claims have frivolous maintenance complaints by the pilots. the pilots union denies that. i asked hyatt a question relating to american's overall labor strike. could these incidents mean there could be some sabotage? >> i would say unlikely not. there's been no sabotage. the mechanics, the pilots, everybody that works aren't the aircraft has a basic responsibility. and when it comes to the safety of flight, they're not going to compromise that. >> reporter: hyatt also says when an airline goes into bankruptcy, as american is now, the faa puts an extra amount of oversight on to that carrier in order to make sure that no corners are being cut. american airlines says it would never compromise the safety and reliability of its fleet. wolf, kate?
>> i understand there's also an issue involving outsourcing that's going on with american airlines as well. >> it is. the union representing american's mechanics and other maintenance workers says that the problems with the seats are not related to their labor issues, but rather related to the fact that american outsourcing work to third party facilities. that union pointed the finger pretty much squarely at a company called timko, which does a lot of the seat installation here. we reached out to timko and they wouldn't comment on this. but kevin hyatt, the safety expert says, as long as the airline is overseeing the work, it shouldn't make a difference if they outsource that work. >> i suspect you're going to be on this story a little bit longer. >> a lot of people interested in this. >> yeah. >> you're in row 12 or 14 and all of a sudden you're in row 15. >> it's not funny. i'm not laughing. >> all right. so that's what we're watching. >> brian todd, thank you so much. wolf's moderated many debates with both candidates. his take, coming up next. don't want to miss nap ♪ lord, you got no reason ♪ you got no right
. a lot of people have been giving their forecast about the first presidential debate tomorrow night. so we decided, who better to hear from than the man whose moderated debates with both mitt romney and president obama, our own wolf blitzer. >> thank you so much for having me here to discuss this -- >> well -- >> thank you. i've moderated, by the way, four debates involving then senator obama, that was four years ago, four debates with mitt romney, three of them just in this cycle. i can tell you, their styles are different. >> their styles are different. we have a couple of clips to kind of illustrate this, and i want to work through this, so please humor me. first, let's hear from mitt romney. this was at january of this year at the cnn republican debate in jacksonville. >> you make a serious accusation
against governor romney like that, you need to explain that. [ audience booi ining ] >> you want to try again? >> wouldn't it be nice if people didn't make accusations somewhere else that they weren't willing to defend here? >> all right. >> speaker, you've indicated that somehow i don't earn that money. i have earned the money that i have. i didn't inherit it. i take risk. i make investment. those investments lead to jobs being created in america. i'm proud of being successful. i'm proud of being in the free enterprise system that creates jobs for other people. i'm not going to run from that. i'm proud of the taxes i pay. my taxes, plus my charitable contributions this year, 2011, will be about 40%. so, look, let's put behind this idea of attacking me because of my investments or my money and let's get republicans to say, you know what, what you've accomplished in your life shouldn't be seen as detriment. it should be seen as an asset to help america. >> i think a lot of people remember that debate moment.
romney really went after newt gingrich there. what does that tell you? what did that tell you, and what does that say about today? >> i think that was the moment that he basically put newt gingrich away, especially in florida, which was the key battleground state at that time for the republican nomination. you know, when i confronted newt gingrich with that question, and i challenged him to answer it, he was looking at romney, looking at santorum, maybe these guys can help me. we don't to have to get into this. but romney really pounced. it showed me that this republican now presidential nominee, he's tough, he's feisty, he's smart, he can respond. and if he does to the president what he did to newt gingrich, this is going to be a tough debate for the president to handle. he's got those skills. >> i think that's an excellent point. okay. so let's move on to the president himself. his advisers keep saying he can tend to come across as being kind of professorial. this is from january of 2008. >> in an interview with cnn this week, you said, quote, i stood up for a humane and intelligent
immigration policy in a way that, frankly, none of my other opponents did. what did you mean by that? >> well, what i meant was that when this issue came up, not driver's license, but comprehensive reform generally, i worked with ted kennedy, i worked with dick durbin, john mccain, although he may not admit it now. to move this issue forward. aggressively. and it's a hard political issue. let's be honest. this is not an issue that polls well. but i think it is the right thing to do. immigration -- >> senator clinton's policy was not, in your words, humane? >> that is -- what i said was, we have to stand up for these issues when it's tough. and that's what i've done. >> was shellacking on that front? >> wolf -- >> i'm trying to figure out what you mean. >> there were those who were
opposed to this issue and there are those who have flipped on the usual. and have run away from the issue. this wasn't directed particularly at senator clinton. but the fact of the matter is, i have stood up consistently on this issue. >> when you see that back and forth, you really try to get him to answer that real -- that question there. do you think he missed an opportunity? >> he could have hit hillary -- that was the last debate at the kodak theater in los angeles. only the two of them were left standing among all of the democratic hopefuls and he really had an opening there to go after her on that issue, whether there was a humane policy, but he backed off. he didn't close the argument, if you will, unlike what we just saw mitt romney closed it against newt gingrich. he held back. i think it's part of that professorial style. if he holds back tomorrow night as he did against hillary clinton, he could have problems in these debates. >> so you've seen these two men in action, and up close. so what do you think as we head into tomorrow? >> i think it's going to be a strong debate. i think they're both extremely
smart. they both have got a lot of experience. the president has been doing this now for four years. he's the commander in chief. you have to be totally respectful to the president of the united states. but i think it's going to be lively. i think it's going to be tough, and neither one of them is going to hold back. i suspect. >> i think you're right. >> strong debating out there. >> there y have it, straight from the man who has done this more than most. thanks, wolf. >> thank you. still ahead, you don't want to miss the video we have for you next. we'll be right back.
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license plate cover. >> reporter: the dog ran into the road, in town tin, massachusetts. the driver braked but didn't see the poodle mix and thought he missed her so kept going. drove for 11 miles to east providence, rhode island. at a stoplight, another motorist alerted him to the dog in his grill. animal control supervisor william muggle got her out. >> she was holding on to the front of the bumper, holding on for dear life, as it were. >> reporter: it's believed she suffered a concussion and minor bladder rupture, but she is fine now. you would suffer a bladder rupture too if you were stuck here for 11 miles. how does something that big fit in here? check out the size of a pooch that managed to get stuck in a grill in brazil. it was like a tug of war. they had to drag the dog out by its hind feet. it kept coming and coming. how much dog can you fit in a grill? and then, as it slinked off, they started yelling "dog" in
portuguese. [ yelling in foreign language ] >> reporter: because the dog was heading back into traffic. all kinds of critters get stuck in car grills. from a kind of of weisel to a parrot. a woman thought she hit the bird, then heard chirping the next day. and this red-tailed hawk looked done-for until mechanics began taking apart the grill. >> i looked in there and he had his head turned sideways and i could see his eye and he blinked. >> reporter: injured, but alive. and then there was the rabbit stuck in this grill. the owner took off the bumper and tried to coax him out. who are you calling dumb? maybe mistook it for a volkswagen rabbit. whatever. out he came. >> there we go. hell, yeah. >> reporter: better to be a rabbit in the grill than on the grill. but watching the extraction isn't always pretty. as one person posted, first time i've seen a car give